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Thoughts on Silence

I'm actually writing this during the Day of Silence, but having promised to remain silent online during the day, I won't be publishing it until the day after.  But, even just a couple hours into my day, I've already had a few thoughts that I would like to share.

The first, and most poignant thought so far, was a rather sad realization.  In a YouTube video I made a while back, I discussed the pain associated with a very dear friend asking me to no longer contact him.  To aid discussion, I'll call him Sam.  Now, I have to make an aside--I'm very bad about checking my friends' blogs.  I sometimes go for months without looking at anyone else's blog.  I use Google Reader as my aggregator, so it's very easy to check all of the blogs I follow (that are public) simultaneously.  Sam has a private blog.  I know many people who have private blogs, and I certainly understand the reasons why people would want their blogs to be private.  However, I only just noticed today that I have been removed from the approved reader list on Sam's blog.  I'm not entirely sure why it hurt so much.  I mean, I've gone several months without checking his blog, and I might have gone several more if I hadn't just happened to try to check it today.

As I mentioned in my video, I am completely willing to honor Sam's request to never contact him again.  (Of course, I assume that this won't last indefinitely.  I project that after a sufficient amount of time has passed to allow him to heal, that he will contact me and then our relationship can again become one of friendship.)  But, the truth is that I still love him very much.  He has been a close friend for well over a decade now.  I am interested in knowing about his family and his life.  I want him to be happy, and I am sincerely interested in how things are going for him and what is important in his life.

So now, all we have is silence.  I am sworn to not contact him, and I am not allowed to read about the things that he and his wife blog about.  I have little hope of knowing what's going on in his life.  Of course, this makes me think of all the people on Facebook that have blocked me.  I do not think that silence is good.  To me, it is painful.  I suffer real emotional pain when I am told that I cannot talk to someone anymore.

Why would anyone want to end all communication with another person?  Clearly, there is a lot of emotion involved.  Perhaps they have been hurt so deeply that they feel they can no longer tolerate further interaction.  Hurt is often based in miscommunication or misunderstanding, but is almost always related to some sort of difference--a difference of opinion or belief.  But, I ask, how does ending communication help?  The only thing that accomplishes is to make it impossible to breach this gap--to resolve the differences.  To vow to never speak to a person again is to deny forgiveness.  It is to insist that the problem at hand is irreconcilable.  In all of my experience (which, granted, in only 29 years isn't all that much) I have never encountered a problem that I feel to be irreconcilable.  I think that open discussion and real effort on the part of either party is always sufficient to overcome any difference.  You may not end up both agreeing with each other, but at the very least you can understand each other and respect the other person's views and their right to hold them.

I've heard it said (if I recall correctly, it was my mother quoting her father, but maybe he was quoting someone else in turn) that "Silence is precious and should not be interrupted unless it can be improved."  I do not agree.  I think that silence is the fastest way to invite misunderstanding and to discourage meaningful relationships.

The next major thought that I had was that silence sucks.  I love talking.  I love listening to people.  I love asking and answering questions.  I have an innate urge to talk to people.  Thoughts come pouring into my head, and I feel a need to share them with whomever I'm around.  I'm sure you've noticed this with how verbose I am here on my blog, and how I talk so much here, on Facebook, on YouTube, and other online forums.  I'll go off on random topics in class--usually just before class, not during.  My students probably think I've got ADD or something.

At any rate, being silent was much harder than I thought it would be.  And I wasn't even silent.  I told my students that I would try to keep my talking to a minimum while teaching, and I did a fairly good job at the beginning of class, but I found that as I started talking a little bit, I couldn't help myself and started talking just as much as normal.  So, there probably wasn't a noticeable difference to them.  It's just so hard for me to keep quiet.  I want to say what's in my brain.

And being silent on Facebook has been the hardest part of all.  It wouldn't be nearly as hard if I'd just stop checking Facebook, but I do check it and I see things that I want to comment on.  I see things that I want to "Like" and voice my opinion about.  It's so frustrating to not be able to do so.  It has definitely given me much more sympathy for gay people who want to come out but can't.  (I never had that feeling.  I never wanted to come out until right around the time that I did come out.)  I can imagine how frustrating it is for them.  Inside they're just screaming "I'm gay!  OK?  Just see that and still love me."  But they can't because they're scared to death (literally, in some cases) of coming out.  They're worried that their parents will disown them, that their father will beat them, that other students at school will bully them, that their friends will turn away from them.  And these are not unfounded fears.  There are still a good number of people who will do these kinds of things.  There still are--even now in the 21st century--parents who will disown their children, or kick them out of the house, friends who will no longer be friends, and bullies who will oppress and harass people.  I would probably have exploded if I had wanted to come out in high school but didn't because of all of these fears.  I don't think I'd be able to contain all of the emotion.

If I were made to be silent by an oppressive government or by people who would tell me that I have no right to voice my opinion, my heart would scream all the louder for justice.  It would strengthen my desire to shout at the top of my lungs and to express every last feeling I had.  I am not good at just being told what to do or having my voice taken away from me.  This day of silence has taught me a great deal.  I think that every person has the right to share their own feelings, and to express themselves fully.  I would never tolerate having that right taken from me, and I have equal intolerance for other people having that right taken away.  Let all who would speak do so.  Silence no voice.  Terminate no life prematurely.  Live and let live.

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